Dream Team Provide Musical Treat for the Prince of Wales

Grahame Davies 1 - Sian Trenberth 2009 cropped web 3The words for a new choral work to celebrate the 65th birthday of the Prince of Wales have been written by a royal aide who is also an acclaimed novelist and poet.

The author is Dr Grahame Davies, 49, Assistant Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who was brought up in Coedpoeth, near Wrexham.

The father-of-two will be coming to St Asaph Cathedral with his family to attend the premiere at the North Wales International Music Festival, now recognised as one of the highlights in the UK’s cultural calendar.

The work is the latest in a series of musical collaborations for Dr Davies, who has provided words for works by several prominent composers, including Karl Jenkins, for whom he has carried out several high-profile commissions

The music, written by royal composer Paul Mealor,  who was born in St Asaph and raised in Connah’s Quay, was commissioned jointly by the festival and London-based Holywell Music, one of Europe’s leading harp suppliers.

Prof Mealor said: “Grahame has a very successful track record in writing for many distinguished composers.

“He is such a gifted poet and lyricist. He has a wonderful feel for the rhythms of music so he was the obvious candidate for this particular job.

“The words are a perfect complement to the music, and I can’t wait for the choral piece to be performed for the first time at the festival.”

The concert will be among the main highlights of the festival – supported by the Welsh Arts Council – that’s being held at St Asaph Cathedral between September 20 and 28.

The Prince’s first official harpist, international star Catrin Finch, and the current royal harpist, Hannah Stone, will both accompany the performance.

Prof Mealor shot to international fame with his composition for the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011 and more recently wrote a special lullaby, Sleep On, for their newborn son, Prince George.

The award-winning composer also gained a great deal of praise after writing the music for the chart-topping Military Wives’ Choir.

This year he became a Vice-President of the festival along with Dr Rhiannon Mathias, the daughter of the founder, Prof William Mathias.

According to festival organisers, they were thrilled that Dr Davies had collaborated with Prof Mealor to create the “very special” new choral work which will be heard for the first time at the concert on Sunday, September 22.

A former senior journalist, Dr Davies is a highly regarded Welsh poet, novelist, editor and literary critic, who has won numerous prizes, including the Wales Book of the Year Award. He has written a total of 17 books in Welsh and English.

He has a degree in English from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, and a PhD from Cardiff University, where he was an honorary fellow in the department of religious studies.

In addition he has been awarded an honorary D.Litt from Anglia Ruskin University, and is a Fellow of Goodenough College, London. He travels internationally as a reader and lecturer while his poetry has been translated into many languages.

He trained originally as a journalist in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and then worked in newspapers in South Wales.

In 1992 he joined the BBC where he worked in documentaries and new media before being appointed the Newsgathering Editor for BBC Cymru Wales.

Dr Davies took up his current position with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in May last year.

He is their senior adviser for their work in Wales and splits his time between Clarence House, in London, and Cardiff.

His role involves organising and attending all of their Royal Highnesses’ Welsh visits, together with drafting speeches, preparing briefings and dealing with all related correspondence.

The festival’s Artistic Director, Ann Atkinson, is thrilled Dr Davies was able to be involved in the prestigious project.

She said: “Grahame is one of Wales’s brightest literary talents and the words he has written provide the perfect complement to the wonderful music composed by Paul Mealor. They are our dream team!

“The piece is written in the style of an Anglican collect prayer and it contains a reference to Psalm 16, which is always read on St David’s Day, as well as a reference to His Royal Highness’s motto ‘Ich dien’, which means ‘I serve’.

“It also contains an adaptation of a line from the ‘Description of Wales’ by the medieval chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis, also known as Gerald of Wales.

“The whole piece is intended to emphasise the principle of stewardship of the world and its human and natural resources.

“The premiere is going to be a magical and memorable evening and one of many highlights at this year’s festival.”

The stellar line-up also includes the Swingle Singers, virtuoso pianist Peter Donohoe, historical performance ensemble, La Serenissima and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

An opera about the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark will help raise money for flood victims in St Asaph.

The two performances of Benjamin Britten’s Noye‘s Fludde at the festival were planned long before last year’s devastating deluge.

After consulting the town council, festival organisers decided it would be appropriate to use the occasion for the benefit of the people who were affected.

The production by Mid Wales Opera will be on the opening day of the festival at St Asaph Cathedral on Friday, September 20.

One of the factors behind the success of the festival is the “world class” acoustics  in St Asaph Cathedral which, according to Artistic Director Ann Atkinson, are better than the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Ann, who has performed at both venues, said:“St Asaph Cathedral is the perfect acoustic environment to showcase our highly talented line-up.

“The cathedral has a very special acoustic – the combination of the stone and the wood creates something really magical somehow.”

“I have also performed in the concert hall at Sydney Opera House and, while it has a brilliant acoustic, I must say that St Asaph Cathedral is actually a much better venue acoustically.”

For more information about what’s on at this year’s festival and to book online go to: www.nwimf.com.